As many of you know, my wife agreed to accept the thankless position of PTO President at our 10-year old son’s elementary school. While it’s bad enough that she struggles to find funds and volunteers to make all of the needed and wanted field trips, programs, and activities a reality, she was also saddled with a starting operating budget of less than $150. Thousands less than the previous years’ Presidents enjoyed.
Still, she’s taken it upon herself to make it work and set a goal of raising $10,000 by Christmas, which is half of her school-year requirement if she’s to avoid cutting programs.
Her recent Walk-a-Thon idea not only brought out a number of wonderful volunteers, but it also helped raise both awareness and nearly $2,000 in contributions. My local Rotary Club alone donated $500 to her cause and she was so appreciative that she wanted to attend a meeting to thank them personally.
When Heather arrived with a Thank You card signed by the majority of students at Cady Stanton Elementary, she took to the podium and thanked the Rotary chapter for their generosity. After a short speech that included a moment of emotion (she’s just not used to other people doing nice things for her), she and Kamryn departed.
Throughout lunch, a number of people came up and commented how “lovely” and “beautiful” Heather was. Like I didn’t already know it! Believe me, I know I married WAY up, but it’s always nice to be reminded just how far out of my league she really is.
Sadly, this is a joy she doesn’t get to experience for herself. While I hear it constantly, it’s not like she’s being approached by people eager to tell her what an awesome catch *I* am.
“Damn, Heather. How did you ever manage to land a balding middle-aged lanky guy with three abdominal scars? You hit the jackpot, girl!”
Following the luncheon, an older member stopped me as I was leaving, and said:
“Greg, was that your wife who spoke earlier? She sure is a handsome woman.”
After hearing this, my first reaction was to grapple with him and put him in a headlock while asking if he wanted to dare repeat himself. But thanks to my bare noggin, which allows considerable body heat to escape, a cooler head prevailed and I just thanked him for his compliment.
But I wondered. Was it one? I couldn’t help but think I had just thanked him for calling my wife a bowser.
I always thought a “handsome woman” would have stubble and possess the ability to wrestle gators into submission. Men are handsome, women are beautiful, right? If a woman is considered handsome, doesn’t that mean she’s gruff, homely, brutish, and manly?
I nervously told Heather what he had said and she took it the same way I did. While she didn’t consider it an insult, she didn’t consider it flattery either. Not one to ever let the comedic value of life’s experiences go to waste, I told her that she better start girlin’ it up because I didn’t want people thinking I married some man-lady.
For the past several days I’ve been commenting about how handsome she is. Asking her to bring her handsome self over for some manly love. Word to the wise (or unwise in my case), comments like this assure no love of any persuasion.
Ever curious, I Googled the phrase to make sure I didn’t need to fight a near-Centenarian at the next luncheon to defend my wife’s honor. While I’m almost certain I could take him, I’d rather avoid the risk of eternal embarrassment if I were to lose. Or even if I were to win, for that matter.
Turns out, Heather’s new layer of self-consciousness may have been formed under false pretenses. Being called handsome is not only supposed to be a compliment, it’s actually supposed to be a really nice compliment.
And I quote:
“A woman with the kind of refined beauty and attractiveness that requires poise, dignity, and strength of mind and character, things that often come with age; not merely sex-appeal. It is more related to a harmony of proportions, dignity, grace, and elegance. Applied to a woman who possesses timeless, classical physical beauty, irrespective of fashion.”
Based on this and other Old English references I found, being called “handsome” is far better than being called cute, pretty, or even beautiful. Even so, the only women to say they’d feel better about themselves if they were told they were handsome were in their 60s and 70s.
This in mind, and judging by the age of the person who said it, this phrase is most likely just an antiquated compliment. Perhaps back in the good ol’ days, this was one of the nicest things you could say about a woman. Today? I’m not so sure.
So, forgetting what you know now, what do you think?
If you’re a woman, and someone said you were “handsome,” would you have taken it as a compliment? Would you have thought it meant you had beauty, grace, and charm? Or would you have sought the nearest spa for treatment?
And if you are a man, would you ever tell a woman she was “handsome” without first protecting your man-nuggets from a swift kick to the crotch?
I don’t think this is something I could say even after being enlightened about the origin of the phrase. I’m just not that brave. Plus, so long as the jury is still out, I have to assume that a handsome woman can kick some serious arse.